I decided to skip the major concerts of this annual music festival. Four years ago, I shot for two days and got a cool t-shirt in return but the t-shirt still fits and now everyone’s a photographer. I don’t think they needed me and I didn’t need another black t-shirt.
But I did want to take in the free festival events and brought a camera along. Les Femmes à Barbe do not wear beards at all, but they did manage a few costume changes during their performance in the sweltering Place de la Mairie. A high energy trio featuring lively harmonies and a variety of musical styles that began with some French Pop, segued quickly through a brief Marilyn Monroe interlude into an Almodóvar film. Bedsheet saris accompanied Polynesian rhythms and on to Africa by way of James Brown.
The heat drove most of the crowd away from the stage into the shade, but didn’t slow down the unbearded singers at all.
The lovely old Chapel of St. Roch was the venue for a duo known as NUT, a singer and guitarist performing vaguely folky tunes in French and English; a mélange of pop, reggae, soft blues and ballads. Pleasant enough to listen to, not compelling enough to keep me in the airless church with sweat in my eyes, while thinking of a cool shower and a glass of rosé.
Last weekend was the annual Voix de Femmes music festival, which for me was a bit of time-travel, for a little while. Like a number of other photographers who started working professionally in San Francisco in the late 60’s, I began shooting rock concerts. There wasn’t much money in it but there was plenty of music, lots of dope and the feeling that this was the best time in the best place in the world. A lot of great photographers came out of that scene, many stayed in it – none better than Jim Marshall who defied all expectations by dying in his sleep two years ago – but my life took a different turn and most of the next 20 years were spent in San Francisco’s Opera House, a very different scene, but one with numerous similarities: a diva is a diva after all, whether she’s singing Verdi or the blues.
After many more turns, here I was last weekend shooting a rock concert for the first time in about 40 years.
Voix de Femmes is a big deal in Maury, two days of diverse musical events plus theatrical events for the children, now in its twelfth year. Things got under way Friday night with Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, a band from Portland Oregon that cultivates an idiosyncratic retro image – actually Sallie has the image, the guys just have jeans and t-shirts – but rides on the strength of Sallie’s voice. Comparisons some have made to Billie Holiday or Bessie Smith are a bit out of line, but she can sing.
They were followed by Amadou and Mariam, two musicians from Mali with a kickass band that had the audience up and dancing. I’m up in front of the speakers, ears ringing, losing the rest of my hearing.
Saturday had four free afternoon events, two performances for the kids, an early music concert and a public chorale featuring a manic comedienne and the good citizens of Maury cajoled into singing in the Place de la Mairie.
Les Troubadours are part of a roving festival funded by the Regional Council that celebrates early music and Occitane and Catalan culture in Romanesque architectural sites. The Maury concert was held in the Chappelle de St. Roch, a Romanesque design built in the mid 19th century to honor St. Roch, to whom the commune had appealed to halt a cholera epidemic. This was a wonderful concert, great voices, early instruments, love songs dedicated to the female troubadours of the past.
The evening shows featured two young women: L, a poetic storyteller who reminded me a bit of Madeleine Peyroux, but still needs to grow into performance, and Anaïs, a versatile chanteuse with an amusing rap, accompanied by a DJ along with the band. It struck me that both might be much more interesting in a small venue.
My back was aching, my recaptured youth all but gone. I managed to get home, raised a glass to Jimmy Marshall, took four ibuprophen and three days to recover.
“I ache in the places where I used to play”, L. Cohen, Tower of Song.